This feature story on Ben Richard originally ran in the program for Bucknell's game against Lehigh on Nov. 4, 2017.
When you watch film of Bucknell’s defense, chances are you’ll see a lot of number 29. As “Mike” linebacker, Ben Richard makes it his mission to be at the center of as many plays as possible.
“Every coach I’ve ever had, from high school up until now, has said, ‘Get in the frame. Get in the film,’” Richard said. “They always told the linebackers, ‘Every time you’re finishing a play, you have to be in the frame when you watch film the next day.’ So that’s what Mark [Pyles] and I both try to do. Our goal is to sprint to get into the frame, get after the ball and make plays.”
And Richard has done just that over the course of his three seasons as starter. A year ago, he finished second in the Patriot League with 95 tackles (55 solo) and also took second among Bison in tackles for a loss (11.5) and sacks (five). This season, he leads a Bucknell defense that currently ranks 18th among FCS programs in total defense (310.3) with 69 tackles (33 solo).
“He’s always around the football because he’s such a high-motor guy,” said first-year assistant coach Mike Weick, who works with the linebackers. “He does a great job at being able to diagnose the plays our opponents are running. With his motor, he takes pretty good angles to get to the ball. And, when he gets there, he’s so physically strong he makes a lot of big plays at the line of scrimmage and behind the line of scrimmage for us.”
Richard enters this Saturday’s game with 247 tackles (126 solo), 25.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks in 36 career games, 32 of which he started. While his numbers are impressive, Weick said some of his most impactful plays have been the ones that don’t show up in the box score.
“Ben is a guy who punishes his opponent play after play,” Weick said. “Right now, he has 2.5 sacks this season, but he’s hit the quarterback in seven of our nine games. Those were impactful plays that created opportunities for us to get off the field, and a couple of them led directly to interceptions. When teams see him on film, they know they’re going to get hit, and his doing that can change the game.”
Though a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Richard said he tries to model his game off of Luke Kuechly, a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers who made over 100 tackles each of his first five seasons and was voted as the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m a huge fan of his because he’s all over the place,” Richard said. “He’s in coverage. He’s making plays in the backfield. He’s getting picks. And that’s what I strive to do. I want to be a dynamic linebacker, not the run stopper, not the pass-coverage guy, but a little bit of everything.”
Richard hasn’t only done “a little bit of everything” on the field; he has also been a key presence in the locker room, weight room and on the sidelines. Weick called Richard the “emotional leader” of the defense while Pyles, who has started alongside Richard at “Sam” linebacker since their sophomore campaign, said: “He lightens things up, but, when it's time to turn it on, Ben's the most intense person out there.”
Richard’s intensity has always set him apart. Asked what drives him, he said he wants to live up to Bucknell’s tradition of excellence at linebacker, a position group that has accounted for five AP All-America and 33 All-Patriot League citations.
“We call it Linebacker University,” Richard said. “I’ve always tried to uphold that tradition, and I was lucky to have three years of experience going into my senior season. Mark and I, we’re both doing everything we have to do to help our team win. As seniors, it’s just now hitting us our time here is coming to an end, and we want to go out on a winning streak.”
The Richard File
- 2017 team captain with Abdullah Anderson, Joey DeFloria and Mark Pyles
- 2016 All-Patriot League First Team
- 2015 All-Patriot League Second Team
- 2017 & 2016 Preseason All-Patriot League Team
- Three-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week
- Two-time Bison Athlete of the Week
- Made his 200th career tackle against Sacred Heart on Sept. 23, 2017
- One of only two Bison seniors to run a starting streak to 30 games